Category Archives: Alexander Technique

The Jigsaw Challenge

The Jigsaw’s Out of it’s Box

It’s that time of year. Out comes my new jigsaw and now I have several challenges. The first was to decide if the table should be covered with jigsaw pieces. With Covid around, there will be no guests at Christmas, so yes, the table can hold the jigsaw.

The second challenge is to find all the edges and line them up where they might fit. I’ve started hunting and I gently rummage around in the box. I explore carefully, so I don’t break any of the jigsaw pieces.  I’m already confused because the corner pieces are different colours from the image on the box!

 

So many jigsaw pieces to hunt through!

I’ve not done a jigsaw for a long time and I need to get my eye in. It’s hard to find what I’m looking for. I notice my shoulders and upper back are beginning to ache a little – that didn’t take long to happen! So what was I doing to cause that?

I had got lost in the activity and I had begun curl down over the table to see the jigsaw. So I’d started getting a bit tense and then achy. How easy it is to lose awareness of our body use when we get engrossed! It’s not surprising I was a bit achy, when you remember that our heads weigh approx 5 kg or 11 pounds. Our heads are so heavy, if we don’t support them with an easy poise and balance, the weight will drag us down.

My grandson is a good teacher! See how freely and easily he looks down

My grandson is a good teacher for me and when I see how he moves, it reminds me to come back myself and think of my own body use. He has such a lovely easy way of moving. Here he is looking down, yet he is not dropping his head and neck forwards as I had just done. He is folding forwards from his hip joints and his muscles are working together in a quiet and balanced way – just as I teach people to do in Alexander lessons.  (Teacher teach thyself!) You can sense the connection from the top of his head, along his spine and down to his coccyx and sitting bones.

So my third and most important challenge is that when I do my jigsaw, I will to do so with more awareness. I’ll hinge forwards from my hip joints so that I can see what I’m doing and take frequent breaks – as I do when I’m working at my computer. Maybe I don’t need to play so intensely (in-tensely – got it?).  Just because I’m having fun and supposedly relaxing, it doesn’t mean that I don’t need to look after myself.

Teaching the Alexander Technique Online

Adapting to the Challenges of Covid-19.

I’ve been teaching face to face Alexander Technique classes for 33 years and I’m now including online work.  Adapting to the new Covid-19 way of life, I’m on a course that aims to improve my online teaching.  Primal Alexander, the brainchild of Mio Morales, makes the AT more accessible online, where we cannot use traditional hands-on procedures.

 

Hilary King experimenting with movements on Mio Morales’ Course

The 12 week CPD course also extends my range of teaching procedures which I can use in face to face lessons. Another benefit is that I am connecting with international AT teachers during this time of limited contact with others, which is great.

An Expanded Alexander Technique Vocabulary

Mio has developed a new vocabulary for online work, to explain the concepts of the Alexander Technique. For instance Mio talks of allowing ‘Ease’ in ourselves, rather than allowing movements to be ‘Free‘.  This extended vocabulary expands our ability to communicate the Alexander Technique to students, particularly online.

Mio’s also created a series of ‘etudes’ in which movements can be explored whilst thinking about how we perform them.  I look forward to creating some etudes for pupils – and for myself, with which to explore my own body Use.

Free Alexander Technique for NHS Staff

Six Free Alexander Technique online lessons for NHS staff

I am offering NHS staff six AT lessons as a thank you for all their dedication and hard work, particularly during this COVID-19 pandemic. These can be followed up with some further lessons at a discounted rate.  Just contact me using an NHS email address.

Other people are of course welcome to have some AT lessons but will be charged for these, at 20% the cost of traditional lessons.

These are internet lessons on Zoom, so will not include the hands-on element of Alexander work. I am registered with both STAT and CNHC  and have an enhanced DBS certificate

The Constructive Rest Lying Down Procedure

Learning the lying down procedure, for instance, gives us a tool we can use to relax, reduce tension and pain, plus recharge our batteries.  Using this procedure daily can help us avoid getting into burnout through overwork, whilst reducing problems such as back pain.

In lessons, we also begin to recognise our habits of body use that cause us problems.  When we learn to let go of unhelpful habits and reactions, we can move and act more mindfully in the world, enhancing our wellbeing.

Testimonial from a GP

You may like to read a testimonial from a student of mine, a GP and amateur musician:

 “A very committed and experienced teacher

… As an amateur musician with problems of tension getting in the way of performance, I was delighted to discover that (Hilary) had experience with helping musicians, but I can thoroughly recommend her to musicians and non-musicians alike. She is a very committed and experienced teacher. I have found it fascinating to explore with Hilary the more general applications of the Alexander technique. This has led me to some important insights about the relationship between my mind and my body… An excellent listener, she is able to focus on whatever problem I bring with kindness, encouragement and gentle hands-on expertise. She always strives to find the root of issues of bad use of the body, with suggestions on how to work on them…  When it is time to leave, I always feel revitalised both in mind and body. Dec 2018. “

Martha ~ Doctor and Musician
NHS offer is once again available until April 2021

Contact me   If you are an NHS staff member, please use your NHS email address

Interview for Hackney Magazine

Hackney Magazine Article

I’ve had an article published in Hackney Magazine, about how the Alexander Technique can help people during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m not alone in finding the AT a great self-help tool that we can utilize in many ways. It helps me keep calmer and more positive;  I use it to reduce discomfort and tension; it recharges my batteries and helps me manage stress.

Active Rest Procedure in Semi-supine

The lying down procedure is the easiest way to start using the AT, even if you haven’t had lessons. It’s more effective than relaxation exercises – the AT reaches the parts other disciplines just don’t reach! You can find more info about how to practice the Active Rest procedure here. The Alexander Technique has many more applications than I was able to mention in the article, that can aid us during this stressful period.

There is a positive gift to be found within lockdown: STOP  

Many of us have to stay home, to stop our usual activities and very often our work. So we have to stop living in our habitual way. Despite the hardship and trauma, this stopping can be a gift, as it allows us to experience living differently and see the world afresh. For instance, many people appreciate the fact that there’s less pollution now, plus enjoy having more time with their children – and they are spending less.

I’ve just moved house and immediately had to self-isolate with lockdown. Fortunately I’m used to living on my own and looking after myself. It’s hard not seeing my family and new grandson and it’s hard asking for help from people I don’t know – but I am very grateful to my new neighbours in Umfreville Road. They are so welcoming, offering help and shopping for me. I’ve had to adapt to new ways of doing things – very abruptly – and the Alexander Technique has helped with this too.

Letting go of old habits allows us to adapt

These are challenging times and we all need to adapt. Change in itself is known to be a major stress factor for most people.  Incorporating Alexander principles can help us gain some choice over how we respond to these changes and stresses. Having the AT, a tool we can use, also helps us avoid feeling powerless.

Choosing not to be ruled by old habits is a skill worth developing. Learning the Alexander Technique helps us to stop and let go of unhelpful habits, so we can choose new ways of acting and being. This allows us to be adaptable, which is invaluable, particularly when we’re facing such huge changes in our way of life.

For those of us fortunate enough to avoid the virus, remember what Charles Darwin said:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”.

Coronavirus and Alexander Technique lessons

Well the short explanation is that they don’t go together! Alexander Technique lessons are a hands-on teaching procedure, so we can’t comply with the rule to keep 2 metres apart.

Alexander teachers have to cease teaching until the coronavirus epidemic has passed. Sadly, I am unable to set up my new teaching practice in Harringay at the moment but look forward to doing so in the future. Online teaching is something I aim to set up soon.

Use the Alexander Technique to help you through this difficult time

Use the Lying Down Active Rest procedure to help calm and centre yourself, for instance.  Think about your body use when doing your daily exercises.  Not only will you  help yourself keep healthy but you’ll look after your back and muscles at the same time.  There are many good books and videos on the internet about the AT.  If you have had lessons already, this is a good time for you to enjoy using all your AT skills to help you through this challenging time.

Alexander Technique for Young Musicians

Book Launch 

Last Sunday I went to the launch party at LCATT for this great little reference booklet, ‘The Alexander Technique for Young Musicians’.  I think  AT teachers and musicians will find it a very useful resource. The authors are colleagues of mine and are an impressive trio, Judith Kleinman, Peter Buckoke and Fuensanta Zambrana Ruiz – All are Alexander teachers, performers and lecturers at major music colleges.

The Alexander Technique for Young Musicians – great little booklet!

We had wine, nibbles, chamber music and then a workshop with input from each of the authors. We explored topics found in the book – Music Practice, Body Mapping and Sensory Awareness.  Like the booklet, the workshop was clear, to the point and very useful.

Fuensanta Zambrana Ruiz, James Sholto and Peter Buckoke

The booklet uses clear language and illustrations to explore the basic concepts of the AT. For instance, I love the use of ‘Fake News’ as a way of explaining Alexander’s term ‘Faulty Sensory Appreciation‘ – Simple, right up to date and good value – so I hope many people make use of it!

Fake News

Misha Magidov

Another sad notification, this time for Misha Magidov who died on 28 May ’19 aged 90.

Misha ran the North London Teacher Training Course where I qualified as an Alexander teacher back in 1987. Misha had trained with Patrick Macdonald, who in turn trained with FM Alexander himself.  Misha was always so caring towards his students and his valuable teaching gave me a wonderful basis from which to work on myself and to teach the AT to others. Misha ran his course for many years with his lovely wife, Judith, until she went to Israel for cancer treatment but sadly died in 2005.  Misha continued to teach in Israel but he visited the UK occasionally to run some workshops for AT teachers.  We were always so pleased to experience his work again and he will be missed by many people. 

I took this photo of Misha in 2008 when I participated in a Workshop that he ran in London.

Kevin Saunders

It was with great sadness that I learned of Kevin Saunders‘ recent death. Kevin came to me on and off for many years for Alexander lessons and during that time he trained firstly as a yoga teacher then, I’m happy to say, as an Alexander Technique teacher. Kevin went on to develop an approach to yoga teaching that utilised his Alexander training and he wrote an excellent Blog on the topic.

This lovely photo of Kevin by Ron Cox shows him in 2003, about the time when he first came to me for AT lessons. Kevin thoughtfully explored new ways to incorporate the AT into his daily life, whilst playing the guitar, working in IT, improving his eyesight and fine- tuning his yoga.

The only photo I took of Kevin was during a lesson when challenging his sense of balance whilst on a wobble board, performing a deep version of the position of mechanical advantage (2012). Not something every pupil is asked to do, or could even think of performing!

Kevin always came to lessons with an intellectual curiosity and gentle thoughtfulness about the human condition, discussing theories and exploring different ways of using the AT. Teaching Kevin was always stimulating for me and I also learned a lot from him over the years, for instance about different approaches to the AT. He will be missed by many.

Celebrate FM Alexander’s 150th Birthday

What better time to explore the AT than on F M Alexander’s 150th Birthday on 20th January 2019!
 
200 Aussies A.jpg
Special Offer – A limited number of Reduced Rate private lessons of one hour are available, only during January, for just £30. Just 4 are left……
 
Here’s a chance to discover what Alexander work is all about and just how it can help you throughout your life, when you use it during your daily activities.
Let go of old habits that don’t serve you and start afresh for the New Year.
FMA and HK.jpg

Successful ‘Stress? Take it Lying Down’ event

Stress? Take it Lying Down 

We recently ran a very successful event for Alexander Technique Week 2018, the theme of which was ‘Stress? Take it Lying Down’. I am very grateful to The Old Church N16 as they kindly allowed me to use the premises for free, as we were fundraising for the local charity Safaplace. I also want to thank my colleague Jessamy Harvey, for all her help in setting up and running the event.

Stress event TOC 2.jpg
Over forty people enjoyed lying down in Semisupine!                 Photo: Nell Greenhill
The Church looked beautiful and very atmospheric with all the candles and low lighting! We were fortunate to have two speakers from Safaplace, Sarah Finke and Rose White who gave moving accounts about the formation of the charity and why it was set up in order to promote the positive mental health of schoolchildren.
I then described how the Alexander Technique can help us cope with stress as well as helping us be more poised and how the AT explores the mind-body relationship, helping us to unlearn habits we’ve developed that can interfere with the way our bodies need to work.
Caroline Sears followed with a talk about Alexander in Education and how the AT has been introduced into over 80 schools and colleges in the UK and in many institutions around the world, helping students handle exam and performance stresses, for instance.
Then it was lie-down time and The Old Church was full of quiet bodies as Natasha Broke talked people through the Active Rest procedure. Along with the teachers already mentioned, Daniela Sangiorgio and Thodoris Ziarkas joined us to give people a brief hands-on experience whilst lying down. All the teachers assisting on this event are registered with STAT and are alumni of LCATT, an AT teacher training course where I am a visiting teacher.
Alexander in TOC 24-10-2018 s.jpg
Six AT teachers gave mini taster sessions                                    Photos: Nell Greenhill
Finally, we gave some mini taster hands-on turns to those that wished to explore the AT a little more and the bar was open for people to enjoy.
Many thanks to Janet Foster who looked after the door, the friends who ran the bar and helped out and Nell Greenhill for taking the photos – all of whom, like the AT teachers, offered their time and services for free.
Donations to Safaplace
I am pleased to say that we raised over £423 for Safaplace – thanks to the generosity of all the participants!
If you would like to read more about Safaplace and / or would like to donate to them, you can do so here: https://safaplace.org/